A photo exhibition on cross-border traders in Southern Africa has put the spotlight on the need for the free movement of goods and peoples in the region - writes Munyaradzi Makoni.
"We wanted to show the role the sector plays in uplifting communities from poverty, and employment creation, yet the traders are affected by many of the structural deficiencies," the Rev. Malcolm Damon, director of the Economic Justice Network, a grouping of Christian Councils in Southern Africa, told ENInews recently.
Damon, a Methodist cleric, said they gave the traders from Malawi, Tanzania, Swaziland and Mozambique cameras to take photos and tell their own story in a unique way.
The photo exhibition, showing trading scenes within the 14-member Southern Africa Development Community, was launched during the 13-15 August 6th Civil Society Forum in Namibia. The traders captured pictures reflecting poor transport networks, street level bureaucracy, the confiscation of goods, xenophobia, high tariffs, corruption, sexual harassment, and delays at border posts.
Focusing especially on marginalised women, the exhibition, held in a Roman Catholic Church hall in Namibia, ran alongside the 30th SADC (Southern African Development Community) heads of states meeting.
"It is significant to hold the exhibition displaying the potential and also the problem-plagued informal cross border trade - when SADC heads of state and secretariat would meet to discuss problems in the region, and Namibia [is] taking the chair of the regional block," said Damon.
"We hope it will lend weight in lobbying and the engagement to remove barriers and promote free movement of people in the region," he added.
Sudecar Novela, leader of a cross-border organisation in Mozambique, told ENInews that corruption is a nightmare for traders at border posts. He noted that his 25-years trading experience had taught him that the problem could be solved by laws promoting small traders.
"The issue of cross-border trade is a very emotional story. It evokes both sad and happy emotions," said Moreblessing Chidaushe of Norwegian Church Aid. Chidaushe believed that injustices that halt economic prosperity at global, regional and even national levels must be confronted.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]